Email overload

This weekend, I’m clearing out 1200 messages in my inbox, accrued over the last 3 weeks, not counting spam and items already filed or deleted. One distributed start-up company, three non-profit affiliations, attempts to defeat the same bad law in several states, and three social/political mailing lists. All of this adds up to a truckload of mail, much of it interesting and relevant if not immediately urgent.
The “organize-yourself” books tell you to act upon or file each incoming message when it comes in.
Some messages are urgent — they relate to a current project or a customer and require an immediate response. When they come in, I think about them, make a decision, and put them away.
Other messages are less urgent. They’re about a conference in a month. They contain links to interesting-looking articles. They have an interesting-sounding conversational idea. They stay in the inbox.
I don’t have enough attention to think about every interesting idea that crosses my email box at the time.
What do you do? Do you have enough attention to deal with every piece of email every day? Are you bold enough to delete things that you didn’t have attention for that day?

2 thoughts on “Email overload”

  1. Adina, by applying a little McLuhan thinking – and specifically the Laws of Media – you can find that information overload reverses into pattern recognition. If you approach email overload as a hot medium – fragmented and discrete – you will indeed be like Humpty Dumpty falling off the wall. McLuhan noted that our instantaneous communications “put Humpty Dumpty back together again.” Dealing with the overload from a cool ground allows you to look for emergent patterns and trends. Think of your thousands of emails as the tiles in a mosaic. If you try to look at them individually, you won’t see the bigger picture.

  2. I put coming events into an “upcoming events folder.” which I look at every day. Now if these messages could get dumped right into a calendar or alert system . . . .

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